August 8, 2021: Homily-19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“. . . and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

As Catholics, it’s easy to hear those words and immediately think of the Eucharist.  After all, what happens at this sacred table is central to who we are – the source and summit of our lives as Christians, the ultimate expression of who we are as Church.  And while it is of central importance to us, that doesn’t mean that it is easy to wrap our minds around, or that we have a complete understanding of this profound mystery.  In fact, we Catholics have been wrestling with the meaning of this sacred meal for two thousand years – unpacking what it means for us as believers and disciples.

And if the Eucharist still makes you ask, “How can this be?” – then you are actually in a good place spiritually.  This Sacrament is not something we are called to “figure out”, but rather we are invited to embrace and enter into it, a profound mystery involving an intimate communion with our God.  That’s incredibly challenging, puzzling, and awe-inspiring stuff.  And it should (and will) remain so.

And because of its central role to our lives as Catholics, every three years we read on five successive Sundays from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel – what is often called The Bread of Life Discourse.  This is week three, the mid-point of our journey through some of the most puzzling things Jesus ever said.  I often wonder what the disciples thought as he kept saying things like,

“I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

These words, of course, took on a deeper meaning for the disciples AFTER Jesus’ death and resurrection, as they regularly gathered to share a meal – fulfilling what Jesus had asked them to do.  And we’ve been deepening that understanding ever since.

And when we hear Jesus say that this “bread” is his flesh for the life of the world, two things immediately come to mind – his sacrifice on Calvary and this meal we share.  It seems pretty clear that Jesus was linking the two – connecting the giving of himself and the giving of this sacred food.

And we still see it that same way today – still believe that the sacrifice of Jesus becomes present to us every time we do, at this table, what he asked us to do.  It’s as if time has ceased, and we are in some sort of eternal space, a place where we are united with Jesus and every other believer who shares in this meal – past, present, and future.  That’s true

communion.  What an incredible thought that is.  What an incredible reality that is.  What an incredible gift that is.

“. . . and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Those words almost give me chills – knowing what was on the horizon for Jesus.  Here was a man (and God) who was going to make the ultimate sacrifice, was going to love and only love – even if it meant he would have to give his life.  No sacrifice was too great for the good of those he loved – and that means you, me, and all of humanity.

But what if those aren’t words that ONLY apply to Jesus, only reflect what HE was about, only foreshadow what HE was about to do?  What if those words are also supposed to apply to us, also be an expression of OUR commitment, also be OUR pledge to one another and to all of creation?  Is that possible?

We sometimes forget, or choose to ignore that the work of Jesus was and is not his own.  That same work has been entrusted to us – those who call him Lord and God.  Faith, my dear people of God, is not some kind of admiration society where we simply say “I love you,” to Jesus, but rather is a living body of men and women committed to continuing his work, his mission, his deep desire to transform the world.  Whatever was important to Jesus must be important to us.  Whatever he was about is what we must be about too.  Whatever he stood for, we must stand for as well. Whomever he loved and loves we obliged love too.  And that’s every single person, no matter how difficult that may seem at times.

That’s what it means to truly believe in the Eucharist – being willing to accept and embrace the profound truth that we are to become whom we eat.  That’s a very big challenge for us. To become whom we eat. We eat the Body of Christ not as some end in itself, or some private moment between us and our God – but so we can BECOME the Body of Christ in a world that needs every good and holy and life-giving thing more than ever.

Beloved in Christ, are we willing to make Jesus’ words our own?  Are we willing to give our lives for the life of the world? Are we willing to sacrifice our own desires and wants for the good of others?  Will we try to love as he loved (and loves) and forgive as he forgave (and forgives) and show compassion and mercy and understanding and generosity as he did and continues to do?

Or are these words only for him?

“. . . and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Father Boat

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